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Life sciences in the 2010s: What’s changed in the last decade?

Ben Pope our consultant managing the role
Posted by Ben Pope
Published on 20 January 2020
The turn of the new decade presents new opportunities for candidates, clients and the wider life sciences industry alike. It also gives us the perfect excuse to take a look back at the last ten years of developments and innovation. The 2010s were full of activity for life sciences, from increased investment through to high demand for niche skillsets. Ready for a retrospective? Here’s what happened in life sciences in the past decade:

Technology has a bigger impact than ever

Technological innovation has touched nearly every industry possible, and life sciences is no exception. In the past ten years we’ve seen pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical companies increasingly turning to big data to help gain more valuable insights into how drugs and therapies are performing, while AI and machine learning have also had a significant role to play. While innovation in this area is predicted to be ongoing, we’ve already seen AI and machine learning accelerate clinical trial and R&D development processes, advance diagnostic capabilities and drive clinical trial compliance. Cloud computing is also emerging as a major player in life sciences’ technological development, particularly within biotechnology where it is simplifying and streamlining disaster recovery testing and auditing processes. Other technological advancements in the last 10 years such as blockchain, robotics and virtual reality are starting to be used in this sector, and we can expect to see this continue into the new decade. 

The skills gap widens

We’ve spoken before about the shortage of qualified life sciences professionals, something which has grown in the last decade and must urgently be addressed in order to meet talent demands in the 2020s. The UK is falling behind the rest of the world when it comes to studying the sciences, although the number of UK students studying STEM subjects has increased by 16% in the past 10 years, suggesting there is still hope for the future industry. The introduction of the aforementioned new technologies has exacerbated the industry’s skills shortage, with professionals needed to not only have key science skills but also data-driven and digital expertise. Experience in genomics, informatics, immunology, clinical pharmacology and data science are all in high demand, along with pharmacovigilance and commissioning, qualification and validation. 

New global hot spots emerge

The UK has dominated the global life sciences market in recent years, but we’ve also seen other countries emerge as key destinations for projects. In 2017 the UK signed the Life Sciences Sector Deal to ensure new treatments and medical technologies are produced in the UK, resulting in new investment into the sector and the creation of new jobs. Elsewhere, the Netherlands cemented itself as a hot spot with more than 2,500 life sciences and research organisations based there, while India continued to expand its reach into research and development, biotechnology and generics. Watch out also for the United States, Germany, France, Singapore and Switzerland to continue to dominate the world rankings after a strong 2010 decade.

We’ve learnt a lot

Scientific discoveries were aplenty in the 2010s. In 2012, CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology made headlines thanks to its ability to enable researchers to edit parts of the genome, resulting in DNA editing of mushrooms, mosquitoes and lizard DNA. A few years later, scientists mapped the human epigenome for the first time, which may help scientists understand more about cancer development. Immunotherapy was thrust into the spotlight, adding a fourth weapon for doctors to use to fight cancer. Alongside surgery, radiation and chemotherapy drugs, we can now leverage the human body’s own immune system to target tumour cells, resulting in a new wave of drugs hitting the market. Investment into research and development will continue into 2020 and beyond, so we can expect to see continued innovation and discovery.

Make your next life sciences move with Quanta

We’ve been a partner to the life sciences sector globally since 2002, supplying highly skilled personnel at all levels to life sciences industry across the world. We love working with candidates and clients who get as excited about life science developments as we do.

Find your next life science job now and make sure this decade is even better than the last.